POLITICS

HUFFPOST HILL - People Unsure Which Human Catastrophe To Be Distracted By

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Republicans have had a sudden change of heart about Russia, recalling Ronald Reagan’s historic speech at the Berlin Wall where he touched Mikhail Gorbachev on the nose while saying “boop!” The Fed decided to hike interest rates, which Donald Trump will probably blame on shady doings at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And nearly every member of Trump’s line of succession is a white man. That’s a shame: If our pluralistic society is going to be under assault for four years, it should under assault by a group of people who resemble America. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Wednesday, December 14th, 2016:

ASSAD LOOKING TO BUDDY UP TO TRUMP - We’re sure Trump was super impressed by Vogue’s classy, tasteful profile of Assad’s wife. Akbar Shahid Ahmed: “As the fall of the rebel-held city of Aleppo pulls the world’s attention back to the civil war in Syria, Syrian President Bashar Assad is quietly readying for his next big coup: re-establishing ties between Damascus and Washington. Assad’s government is cautiously optimistic that the incoming Trump administration will reduce its international isolation and aid it in its efforts to reclaim all of Syria from armed groups that include relative moderates known as the Free Syrian Army, the brutal Islamic State organization and a local offshoot of al Qaeda, according to sources in frequent contact with officials in Damascus.” [HuffPost]

And this: “Russian President Vladimir Putin’s net favorable rating among Republicans has climbed by an astonishing 56 percentage points since July 2014, according to a new YouGov/Economist poll. Thirty-seven percent of Republicans polled hold a very or somewhat favorable opinion of Putin, while 47 percent hold a very or somewhat unfavorable opinion of him. Though still negative overall, that -10 percentage point net approval rating represents a drastic increase from 2014, when Putin’s net favorable rating stood at -66 points among Republicans, according to YouGov Elections Editor Will Jordan.” [HuffPost’s Nick Bayer]

WE ALL DESERVE DEATH - This is the thanks Twitter gets for reinstating Richard Spencer. smdh. Nancy Scola: “Twitter was told it was ‘bounced’ from Wednesday’s meeting between tech executives and President-elect Donald Trump in retribution for refusing during the campaign to allow an emoji version of the hashtag #CrookedHillary, according to a source close to the situation. Twitter is one of the few major U.S. tech companies not represented at Wednesday afternoon’s Trump Tower meeting attended by, among others, Apple’s Tim Cook, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and Tesla’s Elon Musk — an omission all the more striking because of Trump’s heavy dependence on the Twitter platform. With some 17.3 million followers of his account, the president-elect has made Twitter into the de facto press channel of his transition operation.” [Politico]

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MICHAEL FLYNN INSANE, INCOMPETENT - Craig Whitlock and Greg Miller: “A secret U.S. military investigation in 2010 determined that Michael T. Flynn, the retired Army general tapped to serve as national security adviser in the Trump White House, ‘inappropriately shared’ classified information with foreign military officers in Afghanistan, newly released documents show. Although Flynn lacked authorization to share the classified material, he was not disciplined or reprimanded after the investigation concluded that he did not act ‘knowingly’ and that ‘there was no actual or potential damage to national security as a result,’ according to Army records obtained by The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act…. Former U.S. officials familiar with the matter said that Flynn was accused of telling allies about the activities of other agencies in Afghanistan, including the CIA.” [WashPost]

Michael Flynn is also terrible at covering his tracks: “Incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has quietly deleted a tweet with a link to a fake news story about Hillary Clinton’s involvement in sex crimes with minors. In the since-deleted tweet from Nov. 2, Flynn linked to a story on TruePundit.com that falsely claimed the FBI investigation into Anthony Weiner had turned up evidence ‘to put Hillary (Clinton) and her crew away for life.’” [CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski]

MAYBE TEAM TRUMP WILL BE TOO BUSY BACKBITING TO RUIN AMERICA - We can dream! Alex Isenstadt and Kenneth P. Vogel: “Donald Trump’s White House-in-waiting is already being roiled by divisions, with the conservative outsiders who helped power his historic victory colliding with a Republican Party establishment muscling its way in. Insiders paint a picture of constant score-keeping and simmering suspicion within Trump world — one even called it ‘vitriolic.’ And they foresee incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, the party stalwart, and chief strategist Steve Bannon, the populist firebrand, headed for an inevitable clash…. Trump, a businessman-turned-politician, has long encouraged competition among factions within his organizations, creating a pressure-cooker environment where almost every decision resulted in a winner and a loser. In the end, one side would be vanquished and another would take its place, and the cycle would repeat.” [Politico]

BECAUSE “сокращение налогов” IS RUSSIAN FOR “TAX CUTS” - Sam Stein: “In recent days, a series of reports have surfaced revealing that the extent of Russia’s interference in the election was far more vast and deliberate than previously believed. The CIA has assessed that Russian actors were explicitly trying to help elect Trump, while the New York Times reported both on the scope of Russia’s Democratic National Committee hack and its targeting of specific Democratic House candidates with a motivation that remains unclear to analysts. In each instance, the Democratic leader whose organization was being hacked pleaded with his or her Republican counterpart to either publicly condemn what was taking place or to work collaboratively to limit its impact. And while congressional Republicans publicly warned about Russia’s interference, in each instance the GOP leader to whom that plea was addressed either declined those entreaties or simply ignored them.” [HuffPost]

REINCE SPRAINS HAND GIVING PRESS THE FINGER - Michael Calderone: “Reince Priebus, the incoming White House chief of staff, said Wednesday that traditions journalists have become accustomed to, from daily press briefings to assigned seats at the White House, are being reassessed as Donald Trump prepares to take office…. Upon taking office, Trump isn’t obligated to hold daily press briefings or allow news organizations to set up on White House grounds, as HuffPost noted just before his victory. Given Trump’s use of social media to circumvent the press now, it seems he will try different ways of communicating than his predecessors.” [HuffPost]

PRESIDENT MOVES TO PROTECT PLANNED PARENTHOOD - And for the next four weeks, it will be safer than it’s ever been. Laura Bassett: “The Obama administration finalized a rule on Wednesday that will prohibit states from defunding Planned Parenthood for political reasons. Twenty-four Republican-controlled state legislatures have moved to cut public funding to Planned Parenthood over the past five years because some of its clinics provide abortions, even though federal law already blocks the use of public money for abortions. The administration’s new rule, which the Department of Health and Human Services first proposed in September, prevents states from withholding Title X federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood (or any other health provider) for reasons other than the provider’s effectiveness at delivering family planning services…. Unfortunately for Planned Parenthood, the new Title X rule will probably not last long, because the anti-abortion politicians leading President-elect Donald Trump’s administration can move to reverse it.” [HuffPost]

#LINEOFSUCCESSIONSOWHITE - We’ve seen rooms of leather-bound books with more diversity than this. Amanda Terkel: “Donald Trump’s Cabinet is shaping up to be the least diverse in recent history, with just three people so far who are not white men. Of the 13 people Trump has nominated for Cabinet positions, only Ben Carson (Housing and Urban Development), Elaine Chao (Transportation) and Betsy DeVos (Education) are not both white and male. There are still two Cabinet positions, Agriculture and Veterans Affairs, for which Trump has not nominated anyone. For Agriculture, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) has been mentioned as a front-runner.” [HuffPost]

SANDY HOOK WAS TWO YEARS AGO, NOTHING HAS CHANGED - Sorry to distract you from trying not to be distracted from what’s happening in Aleppo, but things are terrible everywhere. Hayley Miller: “There have been over 200 school shooting incidents ― an average of nearly one a week ― since the horrifying morning when 20-year-old Adam Lanza marched into Sandy Hook Elementary School and did the unthinkable…. According to data from Everytown for Gun Safety, which tracks gun violence and other shootings on school grounds, there have been at least 94 gun-related deaths and more than 156 people injured as a result of more than 200 school shooting incidents since Sandy Hook. This doesn’t include plots that thankfully didn’t come to fruition, like the one police stopped this week in Oklahoma, when they arrested a heavily armed 13-year-old girl who had reportedly threatened her classmates.” [HuffPost]

VENGEFUL CHRISTIE TARGETING NEWSPAPERS - Time for some traffic problems at the Star-Ledger: “The purpose of this bill [Chris Christie and allies are pushing], when you cut through the clutter, is to weaken the press, to defang the watchdogs who expose their bad behavior…. This bill is pitched as a way for local governments to save money by posting legal advertisements on their own web sites, and not in local newspapers. But it would force local governments to fortify their web sites against hacking, and hire staff to process, format and track all the ads, a job now done by the newspapers. So how much would it save, in the end? Probably nothing. The last time the boys in the back room tried to pull this stunt, in 2011, the Legislature’s own research arm said it might not save a dime ― and could even increase local costs. That may explain why no other state has done this.” [Star-Ledger]

LET BILL MITCHELL EASE YOUR MIND - We spoke with Trump’s biggest Twitter supporter, who has become this decade’s Baghdad Bob: “’In terms of keeping the grassroots pumped up, that’s my job,’ he said. ‘There’d be election night parties with one person on their laptop and everyone asking, ‘What’s Bill Mitchell saying? What’s Bill Mitchell saying?’’ ‘So many Trump supporters were first-time voters, so they were very fragile,’ Mitchell continued. ‘So they would come to my feed to feel better about it. I was like the suicide prevention squad.’”[HuffPost]

BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR - Here’s a child getting a puppy.

D.C. MARCHING BAND SITTING OUT INAUGURAL PARADE - First Mama Ayesha’s says it won’t update its mural, now this. Trump can’t catch a break in the District. Andrea Swalec: “At least one D.C. public school marching band has participated in the past five inaugural parades, but none applied for consideration this year. Ballou High School’s Majestic Marching Knights performed Destiny’s Child’s ‘Lose My Breath’ at George W. Bush’s second inaugural parade in 2005, and stepped along Pennsylvania Avenue as they played James Brown’s ‘I Got You (I Feel Good)’ at Barack Obama’s second inaugural parade eight years later. But the beloved band decided to take a break in January and not apply to play in the inaugural parade after several other recent performances, the principal said.” [WRC-TV]

COMFORT FOOD

- Amazon demonstrates the functionality of its delivery drones, takes the job of some poor working stiff in a jetpack.

- Remember the late Alan Thicke with this video of him emceeing the 1988 National Aerobic Championship.

- Looking back at the year in memes.

TWITTERAMA

@max_read: my take: the clinton IT guy did mean to type “illegitimate,” but it was more of a “brain fart” than a typo, properly speaking

@MEPFuller: One fun thing about the transition pool reports is that we learn what time Trump employees get to work.

A pretty public way to clock in.

@ashleyfeinberg: I wonder if thiel and barron have the same blood type

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